Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BBC - Secrets of the Arabian Nights (2011)

Secrets of the Arabian Nights is a BBC Four "programme" scheduled to air shortly (tomorrow, if you are, like me, in California, later tonight if you are in London).

It seems to be a basic history of the Nights, with actor Richard E Grant narrating, and taking viewers on a tour of the Middle East, and other locations (including, I think, the National Library in Paris).  Doesn't seem to add anything new to the conversation, but then again, it's always nice to see a Nights piece out at work in the world.

I'd like to see it, perhaps it will show up on youtube shortly, or somewhere else accessible.  If you are in the UK, you can watch it online via the BBC's website:

Here is the info from their website:

"The Arabian Nights first arrived in the West 300 years ago, and ever since then its stories have entranced generations of children and seduced adults with a vision of an exotic, magical Middle East. Actor and director Richard E Grant wants to know why the book he loved as a child still has such a hold on our imagination.

He travels to Paris to discover how the stories of Sinbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin were first brought to the West by the pioneering Arabist Antoine Galland in the early 18th century. The Nights quickly became an overnight literary sensation and were quickly translated into all the major European languages. Richard then travels to Cairo to explore the medieval Islamic world which first created them.

He quickly finds that some of the stories can still be deeply controversial, because of their sexually-explicit content. Richard meets the Egyptian writer and publisher Gamal al Ghitani, who received death threats when he published a new edition of the book.

He also finds that the ribald and riotous stories in the Nights represent a very different view of Islam than fundamentalism. Can the Nights still enrich and change the West's distorted image of the Arab world?"

Here is an article from BBC News about the show:

Not sure about the article, particularly these passages, which seem based in the speculative romanticism that has forever plagued the Nights:

"The tradition of oral storytelling and embellishment down the centuries makes perfect sense when you consider that tribes of nomadic people travelled across North Africa to the Middle East and beyond to India, putting storytelling centre stage around camp fires in the evenings.

Anyone who has ever played that game where one person whispers the beginning of a story into someone else's ear and they then have to repeat and add to it, will know how a story evolves and expands very quickly.

Likewise, the oral tradition of repeating the stories that make up The Arabian Nights, told by different people over a period of 10 centuries, will be hugely variable."

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